By the billions, Arab petrodollars come back to the United States each year.
Saudi businessman Ghaith Pharaon buys a bank or two or three. A Houston engineering firm closes a deal to oversee construction of a $4 billion plus natural gas project in Saudi Arabia, meaning 70,000 hours of work each week in Houston.
But at the same time, on a small and less visible but surprisingly wide-spread scale, increasing numbers of American businessmen and their workers are finding prosperity - both in profits and in paychecks - linked to the Saudis and other Middle Eastern nations with petrodollars to spread around.
In a long and narrow room in what used to be the Minden Butter Manufacturing plant here, Madge Johnson assembles tiny electronic sensor components for $5.76 an hour. It helps support her two teenage daughters, keeps up the $66 a month car payment and left enough last year to pay $600 in auot and house insurance premiums without cracking the family nest egg or going into debt.
There will even be a $200 refund from the Internal Revenue Service for her.
About one-sixth of it all came from the Middle East. Of the $5.76 Johnson earns each hour, fully $1 of it is a petrodollar.The reason is that her employer, Bently Nevada, now does some $5 million of its $26 million in total sales with the Middle East.
"Absolutely," answers company President Donald E. Bently, when asked if some of his employes owe their jobs to the Saudis and other Middle East customers. The firm's payroll is $80,000 a week, and, averaged out, every sixth week represents Middle East petrodollars.
Across the continents in Donora, Pa., Betty Ferguson earns $5.73 hourly checking goods arriving at the lubrication systems division of the Elliott Co. For her, $85 of her $100 monthly mortgage payment comes from Saudi Arabia, because Elliott currently sends 85 per cent os its production components for natural gas compressors to the Saudis.
The Saudis took Ferguson, who supports two young children and her mother, off a $72-a-week unemployment check. Some 90 per cent of the Donora plant's work force, which doubled from 65 to 137 in the past year, were taken off the unemployment rolls.
Down south, in Conway, Ark., Ward Industries doubled its production of school buses last year with a $60 million Egyptian order, an infusion of business that made the assembly line sprout from 800 to 1,100 people. Soon, another 50 will be added to stamp out parts for a Ward assembly plant to be opened in Jiddah - a venture of company Chairman Charles Ward and Ghaith Pharaon.
Both the Egyptain order and the Jiddah plant were outgrowths of a $25 million job for the Saudis, who wanted 700 buses to transport Moslem pilgrims to Mecca and Medina.
So it is for thousands of Americans in scores of scattered communities: whether potato chips, Oreo cookies, completely furnished modular hotel rooms or large equipment. Middle East business is providing profits and capital, paying for cars and houses and bringing in some cases, a full awareness of dependence on oil money.
What concerns some people in the American Jewish community is whether that dependence off individual pay-checks or the national aggregate of billions of dollars in sales to the Middle East could somehow eventually influence U.S. policy toward Israel and its Arab antagonists.
All of this forms a backdrop for the recent direct Egyptian and Israeli appeals for U.S. public opinion to support them in the current peace negotiations, including a plea by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat for Americans to "exert your influence" on Israel.
Both Sadat and Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan have visited the United States in efforts to gain the support of Americans.
Milton Ellerin, of the American Jewish Committee in New York, said, "The concern is there that [Arab] business could be used adversely," there in company hiring and promotion policies or as a lever on public opinion toward Israel. "You fear the unknown," he added. "This is an unknown."
"We can't afford to make the Arabs mad at this time," says E. O. Ryan, Ward Industries' vice president for engineering, who became a Conway luncheon celebrity before the Lions Club, the Civic Club and the Business Women's Club with his reflections on life in Saudi Arabia after a business trip there.
"Three hundred jobs is a lot of jobs in that town," adds Charles Ward of the growth in his plant at Conway, population 15,000. "Everyone is aware of the impact," particularly when 40 Arabs spent two to three weeks in a local hotel while being trained at the bus plant.
Asked how this has affected public opinion, Ward cites a recent editorial in a Little Rock newspaper criticizing the Israeli government for what it considered obstructionism to Sadat's peace initiative.
Last year the United State exported some $7 billion in goods to Arab nations - with about half of that going to the Saudis as that nation presses its $142 billion internal development program financed with its oil earnings.
That does not include uncounted millions more in services sold to the Middle East.
The U.S. Department of Commerce has calculated that every $1 billion in exports supports 90,000 U.S. jobs. Thus, a measure of money was returned to the United States in a recycling of some of the $20 billion the nation spent last year for Middle Eastern oil.
"Brown crude is being turned into green dollars, says one U.S. government procurement officer of that return of dollars.
"We need to get as many Americans in there (the Middle East) as possible to recycle dollars back out of there," said Charles Ward, who is also a member of the Democratic National Committee.
In North Miami, Fla., the Saudi impact is very clear cut. Panelfab, a manufacturer of prefabricated building components, has grown from 123 employes to more than 500 on Middle Eastern business, the latest a $15.5 million contract through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is overseeing construction of the Khalid military city.
And the Pineville, La., a $900,000 order for the same project through the Corps allowed Baker Manufacturing, which makes dormitory type furniture, avoid layoffs among its work force to 200, primarily made up of lesser-skilled people whose average salary is about $3.50 an hour.
But the Arab business has been even more visible in Donora, a tiny Monongahela Valley community south of Pittsburgh that has been severely depressed ever since U.S. Steel closed a plant in 1965 and threw 7,200 people out of work.
Traffic has been stopped while huge pieces of machinery have been moved through town - with accompanying pictures of the Saudi-bound goods in the newspaper. Employes are "highly aware" of the impact to Middle East money on their lives says one company official, as they are at many other businesses where company newsletters record what's been sold to whom.
Beyond the paychecks, though, is the reality that money is for spending, and so Saudi and other Middle Eastern petrodollars echo through local businesses like halloos off canyon walls.
Madge Johnson and Bett Ferguson and their fellow employes in Minden and Donora buy goods as they will from local merchants, just as Bently Nevada buys, say, lumber for shipping crates from Copeland lumber yards here.
Not to mention the $1,100 IRS is going to collect from Madge Johnson. One-sixth of it, too consists of petro-dollars.
In Donora, lumber, paint and welding supplies are all purchased locally by Elliott and, it is said, the Green Grill does a lively trade in lunches for the booming Elliot work force. Baker Manufacturing, the furniture maker in Pineville, La., has suppliers all over the country, as does Panelfab, so there's no telling how many people actually share in a petrodollar.
But, says John Stodieck, 25, an electrical engineer, he hasn't even thought that his $15,000 a year salary with Bently Nevada depends on the Arabs. With a working wife and payments on a $75,000 house in nearby Reno, Stodieck says simply. "I'm not overly conscious of the outside world," and he likes it that way.
In addition to the economic windfall that petrodollars have brought, there are other fallouts not easily tallied. In the case of Stodieck and Bently Nevada, which has grown from three people in 1961 to today's 720. the firm is providing jobs to local people who may otherwise have had to leave this small valley community in the Sierra mountains.
Don Bently has even subsidized college costs for some local people to go to college and return home and work here. "We're keeping the cream of our crop of our young people," said Joe Shull, Bently Nevada's marketing services manager.
Bently Nevada has recently booked some $500,000 to $1 million in orders for the Saudis' construction of 26 desalinization plants, and the heart of the company line is now a product developed for a Saudi contract. Bently Nevada makes sensors to record the rotations of such large machines as pumps and turbines.
So bustling has Bently Nevada become (despite Don Bently's best efforts at finishing a new parking lot), the little firm has antogonized its neighbors across Route 395 as employes park on the street.
"Parking for residents only" signs have been stabbed into the earth at curbside, and that is not good.But all in all, with a litle help from the Middle East, things here in the Far West aren't bad.